Pubdate: Tue, 30 Aug 2016
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 The Telegram
Author: Barb Sweet
Page: A5


Arguing national back-to-school "don't do drugs" campaigns are out of
touch with reality, some local groups are planning to take to
Confederation Building Wednesday to mark International Overdose
Awareness Day with a rally.

"What we want people to be more aware of is some of those kids are
going to chose to use drugs," said Tree Walsh, harm reduction manager
for St. John's with the Aids Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The goal then is to warn drug users of the dangers of

The event starts at 12:15 p.m. and includes members of the AIDS
Committee, along with the recently established MUN Chapter of Canadian
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) and the NL Harm Reduction
Working Group.

Walsh said students going to university and college for the first time
need to be aware of the potential for drugs to be laced with anything,
including Fentanyl, which has an effect something like heroin, but is
a deadly narcotic.

It's often passed off as a fake Oxycodone, and could be contained in
pills known on the street as little green monsters, Walsh noted.

She said she's advised people who use those pills to take a pill a
little bit at a time. She noted one person recently took that advice
and the pill evidently had barely any buzz-producing drug in it.

But she said it could easily have been laced with the drug that has
made big headlines in other provinces for its deadly effect.

"The next one could have a triple dose," Walsh said. In 2015, there
were 274 deaths in Alberta associated with Fentanyl according to
Alberta Health Services, which warns the drugis about 100 times more
toxic than morphine, heroin or oxycodone.

There were 238 illicit drug overdose deaths with Fentanyl detected
from January to June this year in B.C., according to information
published by the British Columbia Coroners Service.

The Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use has said over
the period from 1997 to 2013, Newfoundland reported five accidental or
undetermined fentanyl-implicated deaths.

Walsh said it's hard to say how much Fentanyl is in Newfoundland, but
cautioned there's no quality control in the illegal drug labs, so
anything could be part of the concoction.

A big problem in this province, according to the advocates, is that
there's no Naloxone program. The drug produces no high, but is the
antidote for opioid addictions.

"You're as good as dead if there's no Naloxone around," said Walsh,
who suspects Newfoundland and Labrador is the last province without a
program. "It buys you time for the ambulance to get there. It saves
lives. We need it now."

According to rally organizers, the federal government - which
recognized the need for Naloxone to be available in Canada in reaction
to the spike in overdose deaths - left the process of establishing
Naloxone training and distribution programs to each province.

The AIDS committee has been talking to government since last fall
about getting Naloxone kits to give out free, the same as it does
needles. The committee expects approval.

The idea would be to provide the kits through the needle exchange
program and that all first responders be trained in its usage.

Walsh said it's currently administered in IV form by advance
paramedics or at emergency.

The other issue the rally intends to bring light to the need for a
good samaritan law in Canada, Walsh said.

This law would protect from prosecution those who stay until help
arrives with someone who is having an overdose.

Walsh said she knew of two people who were charged with possession
here recently after staying with friends while overdosing.

Meantime, organizers are unsure if Wednesday's rally will attract
large numbers, given the stigma drug users associate with even going
to the AIDS committee's facility to pick up needles.

"We won't be surprised if there's not a crowd," Walsh

"The point being awareness needs to be raised."
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MAP posted-by: Matt